Where we are 60 days after PUA program launch


It has been over two months since the CNMI Department of Labor launched the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and over $50 million has been disbursed so far, with over 5,000 qualified residents who have received their benefits.

Speaking at a Society for Human Resource Management outreach yesterday, Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente reported that the department received over 8,700 applications more than 60 days since the launch of the PUA program in the CNMI and that Labor continues to receive hundreds of weekly claims.

“Sixty days ago when we started PUA, we have received 8,700 applications for initial claims and we continue to receive on a daily basis weekly claims requests in the hundreds,” she said.

Benavente said that many of the kinks in the disbursement of the unemployment assistance have been ironed out and many things have been changed to more efficiently get out the unemployment aid to the CNMI community.

“…Many things have changed—the system lines, telephones, the number of bodies, the applications, the portal, our wonderful portal. Many things have changed and that’s really good news,” she said.

On top of this, Benavente said they received word from the U.S. Department of Labor informing them that they would be drawing down another $50 million for the CNMI’s PUA and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

“Today we got the email from USDOL that they are drawing down funds in the amount of $50 million to the CNMI today, so we do have additional funding that is going to be drawn down for PUA and FPUC,” she said.

The CNMI can expect more unemployment assistance from the United States following President Donald Trump’s recently signed executive order, she said.

“We spoke to the Federal Emergency Management Agency people yesterday morning…with regards to President Trump’s executive order for the additional lost wages assistance program. The CNMI is going to apply for that program because it will help more people with unemployment assistance if they qualify. We will be meeting as an administration on Friday to finalize an application to FEMA for this additional…program,” she said.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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